The cause of the council's controversial overhaul of its water and sewage unit in 2016 has been revealed under a Right to Information request.
The cause of the council's controversial overhaul of its water and sewage unit in 2016 has been revealed under a Right to Information request. Brett Wortman

Lightning rod Gympie council water report finally revealed

ENVIRONMENTAL breaches in 2015 and a lack of skilled staff were key reasons behind a controversial decision by Gympie Regional Council to overhaul its water and sewage business unit in 2016, a newly released report has revealed.

The report, released under the Right to Information Act along with accompanying documents, was produced by Aqua projects revealed multiple concerns about the business unit.

These included little evidence of strategic planning, poor long-term performance of environmental KPIs and ad-hoc management and confusion among staff over roles and responsibilities.

Gympie Town Hall.
Gympie Town Hall.

It advised the council undergo a "comprehensive change program” to address issues in and outside the organisation.

"This will demand strong leadership, not from just one person but at all levels of the organisation,” it said.

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It put forward four options for change: a commercialised business unit of council; a commercialised unit with other Wide Bay Burnett Region of Councils; a commercialised unit with Unitywater; or a commercialised unit with another industry partner.

The decision to make it a business unit of the council was endorsed by councillors at the council's September 28, 2016 meeting.

The report tabled before councillors said the report "highlights a range of deficiencies which must be addressed in order for council to ensure that in running a very large business, that business is being managed effectively and professionally and is providing a cost efficient and effective service to the community.

Gympie Town Hall.
Gympie Town Hall.

"The necessary change can only occur through management changes.

"In order to not remain 'under watch' by the regulator, action needs to be taken”.

By introducing the commercialised business unit, the council introduced "user pays” to its water services.

That report noted "the opportunity is now available to reduce the number of Directorates and set up a structure to enable the necessary actions be implemented with regard to Water and Sewerage”.

The option of joining with Unitywater was considered "realistic... and would benefit the community from the economies of scale and expertise”.

Water pipe.
Water pipe. Contributed

However, it noted the group "would be wanting a commercial return” and "council with a high performing business unit should be able to deliver the services just as effectively”.

It also reports savings of at least $160,000 could be achieved but "some of those savings may be absorbed at some point in the future”.

It was first tabled at a September 7 meeting as a late item in committee, but deferred.

The overhaul was a lightning rod for controversy within the Gympie community at the time.

Gympie Times


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